Best/Worst Cashiers in Hawaii

In my prior post about part-time jobs I held as a kid, I left off in high school when I worked at a supermarket in New Jersey. Back in the 70s, it seemed like most of the cashiers were teenagers, who viewed it as a temporary job. Today, I see a lot of middle-aged women ringing up groceries, and many of them aren’t going anywhere. This is it for them.

If they’re happy with it, fine. But where I shop in Kailua, you get the feeling that half of them are just going through the motions for a paycheck. No smiles. No sign of life in their eyes. They’re like robots — extremely slow moving robots. The ladies at Don Quijote are so slow it seems they are consciously pacing themselves to expend the least amount of energy possible during their shift.

In general, Safeway’s employees are better trained and move a little quicker. At Foodland, they’re pretty good about opening additional registers whenever one has more than three people in line. The Longs cashiers are okay, but if it’s a coupon book weekend, be prepared to wait… and wait. Wherever you go though, avoid the dazed-looking checker wearing an “In Training” tag.

Yes, I know it’s hard to be motivated doing that kind of work. Opportunities for advancement are nil. It’s mundane and repetitive. Still, that’s no excuse for not doing the best job you can do if someone is paying you a salary. Anyway, that’s what I was taught by my parents and that was my attitude growing up.

I took pride in being fast on the register. My line moved quicker than the others because I had agile fingers and could recall fruit and veggie prices without having to consult the produce list repeatedly. I was a good bagger too, making sure to distribute the weight and crushable stuff properly. However, I was not a perfect employee… I was a teenager, after all.

One night during my senior year, I went out drinking with my buddies and woke up feeling nauseous and terribly hungover. Yet I still made it into work on time. Unfortunately, it was extra-busy that day and the lines were backed up. Since it was customary for guys to wear ties at Shop-Rite, my shirt collar was buttoned up and I was sweating bullets…

I kept glancing at my fellow cashiers, while stifling the urge to heave. Then after I paid out change to a customer and closed the register drawer, I started to choke — the bottom of my tie was caught in the closed drawer!

Jerking my head back only made it worse. I kept hitting the button to open it, but the drawer was stuck. Customers in line were leaning around each other to see what the hold-up was. I had to signal another cashier to get help. A couple of minutes later the store manager arrived with a key to unlock the drawer. Embarrassed, I asked for a break, went up to the men’s room and threw up. Then I returned to my register and finished my shift. Because it was my job.

Takeaway idea: Even if you have the crappiest job in the world, the time will go by faster if you try to do your best and make customers happy. (But don’t go to work nauseous and hungover. You will regret it.)

Case in point: At the Kailua Post Office, there’s a long-time worker named Dennis, who always greets customers with a smile and tries to help them with any of their mailing needs. In my eyes, he’s a true professional. We need more people like Dennis. (Okay, so he’s not a supermarket cashier. But he does use a cash register.)

Bonus Tip: From NY Times Career Couch column, make yourself indispensable to your company by suggesting ways to improve business.

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